CHEYENNE, Wyo. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Friday that the state will consider helping pay the cost of keeping a snowy pass on the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park open for snowmobiles during the winter.
The National Park Service last month approved an agreement it reached with Wyoming and other parties to keep Sylvan Pass open to guided snowmobile and motorized snowcoach access.
The plan calls for the Park Service to pay the cost of keeping the pass open roughly $300,000 last winter. That includes the cost of using helicopters and howitzers to set off explosives to trigger avalanches on the 8,500-foot high pass.
Freudenthal notified Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis this week that he'll ask the state Legislature to consider allocating $35,000 to buy and refurbish a howitzer. The Legislature convenes again in January.
He said he'll also ask lawmakers to consider paying an annual cost of $3,500 to maintain and store two howitzers at the Wyoming National Guard armory in Cody.
"While I obviously cannot guarantee success, I will commit to exploring the inclusion of both the one-time $35,000 appropriation for the howitzer acquisition and the $3,500 ongoing costs for storage and maintenance by the Wyoming National Guard into my budget for this coming legislative session," Freudenthal said.
The National Park Service's decision to keep the pass open reversed an earlier announcement that it planned to quit maintaining the pass during winter. That plan drew vocal protests from Wyoming and local officials, who argued the winter snowmobile activity is critical for the area's tourism and recreation.